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Film Review: 'Thoroughbreds' is Hitchcock for the Snapchat Generation

March 9, 2018Ben MK

If Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Danny Boyle somehow got together to make a movie about two teenage girls who conspire to commit murder, the suspenseful and darkly comedic result might bear a striking resemblance to writer/director Cory Finley's feature debut, Thoroughbreds.

In this tale of good breeding gone bad, Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke play Lily and Amanda, two former childhood friends, both from affluent Connecticut families, and each with their own set of problems. For Lily, it's her recent expulsion from boarding school for plagiarism and her hatred for her pretentious, short-tempered and insufferable stepdad, Mark (Paul Sparks), that weighs on her. Meanwhile, Amanda suffers from an acute lack of emotion, leading her peers at school to label her a sociopath, an accusation that isn't helped by the fact that she also recently — and brutally — killed her horse (hence, part of the reason for the film's title).

Reunited after Amanda's mother hires Lily to spend time with her daughter (under the guise of tutoring her for her college entrance exam), the pair's first meeting in years gets off to an awkward start. Still, it's not long before Lily and Amanda are spending late nights together on the couch, watching black-and-white movies and stealing wine from Mark's cellar. Their conversations soon take a dark turn, though, when Amanda notices just how much Lily hates her stepfather, prompting her to ask why she doesn't just kill him. "Because then I'd go to prison," says Lily, to which Amanda dryly retorts, "Why do you assume you’d get caught?"

Enter Tim (Anton Yelchin, in his final role), a wannabe drug dealer with a rape conviction, who lives with his dad and works as a dishwasher in a retirement home, and who has no ties to Amanda and Lily whatsoever. Pegged as the ideal candidate to do the deed, Tim finds himself blackmailed by the duplicitous duo, who plan to make Mark's murder look like a break-in gone awry. But will Tim, who talks a big talk but whose ability to follow through proves questionable, actually abide by the nefarious plan? Or will Lily and Amanda have to get their own hands bloody?

As methodically paced as it is dark and twisted, what follows is one of the most deliciously unsettling two-handers in recent memory, with Taylor-Joy and Cooke turning in a pair of deadpan and strangely charismatic performances that keep the audience engrossed and guessing until the very end. And even though the premise of the film feels like something that can barely sustain a 20-minute short, let alone a 90-minute movie, you'd be hard-pressed to call it dull. There's just too much to be fascinated with when it comes to Lily and Amanda.

In the end, though, Thoroughbreds is less concerned with the act of murder itself than it is the journey these two friends take to reach the story's ultimate conclusion. After all, it's not always about the destination. Sometimes it's about the company. And for those who prefer their thrillers a little off-kilter and with a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of humor, Thoroughbreds is fine company indeed.

Thoroughbreds releases March 9th, 2018 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for disturbing behavior, bloody images, language, sexual references, and some drug content. Its runtime is 1 hr. 32 min.

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